Seven Mortal Sins in Islam
The notion of ‘seven mortal sins’ became known a few centuries before the arrival of the Prophet and Messenger of God Muhammad, peace be upon him, and it was honed by the Christians. From there this set phrase migrated into our day-to-day vocabulary, however, in view of the teaching of Islam it requires a clarification.
Islam is in agreement with the Christians’ censure of the sins they list. However, what they call ‘sins’ is not deeds but rather, moral principles: pride, anger, greed, gluttony, envy, lust, idleness. For a Muslim this list is a bit too vague. Allah is not One who shakes His finger at men shaming them for how bad they are, He is One who looks after men and gives them clear guidance as to what specific deeds shall pave the way to Hell’s Fire. Islam calls mortal sins the ‘big sins’ (kabir).
While reference to them is dispersed throughout the pages of the Holy Quran, their ultimate list in the Hadith may vary. Imam al-Bukhari lists 7 Major Sins:
1. idolatry with Allah
2. occult magic
3. killing a soul that Allah has sanctified except for a just cause
4. consuming usury
5. usurping the property of an orphan
6. fleeing the battlefield
7. accusing chaste but unwary believing women.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2766).
The Prophet’s cousin Ibn Abbas extends the list to 70, augmenting it with failure to observe daily prayer, evasion of zakat, not fasting on the days of Ramadan, not performing Hajj, eating non-Halal food, stealing, bearing false witness, drinking alcohol, disrespecting one’s parents.
Man was made chaste by Allah, yet, he is weak and will sin. Allah knew this all along and envisaged a way out. Sins can be pardoned. The Holy Quran makes it quite clear. “Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful” (39:53). “Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (3:31) But pardon must be deserved, by way of fighting sins and repenting for them.
“If you avoid the major sins which you are forbidden, We will remove from you your lesser sins and admit you to a noble entrance into Paradise.” (4:31)
Major sins result in eternal damnation. He who commits them and then turns to prayer, repentance and dua has the only hope of Allah showing mercy where technically speaking doom is pre-ordained. This hope is not vain. Repentance and prayer are a great tool in front of Allah for God’s love has no limits. But more important is learning not to commit Major Sins rather than learning to repent for them.
Let us recall the surah An-Nisa which we quoted above. “If you avoid the major sins…” Avoid them, says God. Here repentance for sins is not the issue. Avoidance of sins most certainly is.
It is a much greater challenge and requires resolve and strength. Ones not easy to summon unless you have a Helping Hand. The Holy Quran makes it clear how this Help is to be sought. “If you are tempted by Satan, then seek refuge with Allah. Indeed, He alone is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing” (41:36). “Indeed, when Satan whispers to those mindful of Allah, they remember their Lord then they start to see things clearly” (7:201). This ‘starting to see things clearly’ is the actual strength and resolve that will support you in your avoidance of sins. This is where Allah’s power will come in, provided you seek it with due diligence. Through namaz and dua. Through untiring supplication straight from the heart. Through total submission to God’s will.